July 6, 2006


Reining in the president (David S. Broder, 7/05/06, Seattle Times)

Justice John Paul Stevens, the author of the majority opinion in last week's historic decision on Guantánamo detainee trials, was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1975 by President Gerald R. Ford. Had there been no Supreme Court decision ordering Richard Nixon to turn over the White House tapes that led to his own resignation, Ford would never have been in a position to appoint Stevens — or anyone else — to judicial office.

It was that first Supreme Court decision requiring Nixon to turn over the incriminating evidence of his complicity in the Watergate cover-up that set the tone — if not the precedent — for the 5-3 decision Stevens wrote last week, telling the president he could not try Osama bin Laden's former driver before a commission of military officers because Congress had passed no law authorizing such commissions or regulating such trials.

Once again, the chief executive had to be reminded that he is not above the law. No more than the security threats Nixon invented in order to justify his rogue police-state operations will the war on terror relieve the president of the burden imposed by the Constitution to "faithfully execute the laws." He can't just make them up to suit his convenience.

For anyone who was worried that the United States was in danger of losing its precious freedoms as it mobilized to combat the threat of Islamic terrorism, the Stevens opinion was the best possible Independence Day gift.

On the other hand, anyone worried that the Court is willing to risk precious lives just to defend its own prerogatives, can rest assured that on the day Justice Stevens retires the presidentcan go back to making up laws for captured terrorists. Sadly, that's a lesson more fitting for Dependence Day, since it demonstrates that the Constitution means whatever just 5 people say it does.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 6, 2006 7:45 AM

Using oj's meme "Had Enough" - We sure have had enough of Stevens who should step down, so we have a new five counting from the right this time.

Posted by: erp at July 7, 2006 11:02 AM